I remember years ago, I was selling advertising for a small newspaper. I was walking down the street to a particular business, when a memory of something that had happened years earlier flooded my mind. It was video replay of the incident.
Something I saw or heard on that street triggered that memory. I had about four or five memories that routinely plagued me. I would do something and suddenly there would a flashback of something negative that happened to me years earlier. There were about four or five memories that continually plagued me.
But this time I did something different. As I walked down the street I asked God why I was having these memory flashbacks and I felt the Holy Spirit say to me it was happening because I hadn’t forgiven the people involved in the incident.
I had thousands of things happen to me as I was growing up and I would not be able to remember them if you paid me, but there were about four or five memories that I couldn’t forget.
I felt the Holy Spirit impress on me that these memories still had an emotional charge that kept them alive and that emotional charge involved unforgiveness.
At this point I understood that I needed to forgive those involved in these particular incidents.
Most times I needed to forgive more than once. Every time a flashback happened, I forgave and then forgave when it popped into my mind again.
As I went through this process, these memory flashbacks started to slow and eventually stopped.
It didn’t necessarily happen right away, but as I dealt with the emotional charge of unforgiveness that kept these memories alive, for the first time it allowed these memories to start growing old and become like the thousand of memories decades old that I can’t remember.
Today, there is only one of these memories that I can still recall, maybe suggesting I still need to forgive. But the other four I have no clue what they involved.
But of course, this leads to the age-old discussion does forgiving forget. In my personal experience it did, but is there any Biblical support for this?
I don’t think many of us appreciate the predicament that the ancient patriarch Joseph was in with his brothers. Joseph would eventually become second in command in Egypt, but before that happened, as the favorite son of Isaac, Joseph was arrogant and a braggart, a typical know it all teenage boy.
He was squealing on his brothers when they got into trouble (Genesis 37:2). And when he was 17, Joseph started receiving some God-given dreams that he would be leader of the family and that his brothers would be subordinate:
” He said to them, ‘Listen to this dream I had: 7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.’” (Genesis 37:6-7 NASV)
He lorded over his brothers and mocking them. Even Joseph’s father Jacob was not spared his jibes (Genesis 37:10).
When we watch the reaction of the other brothers, we can be sure of one thing. Joseph was just not sharing his dreams, he was taunting his brothers through his attitude and undoubtedly the other things he was saying not recorded in the Biblical account.
So when Jacob sent Joseph to find out where the brothers were, they had enough of his attitude and alone in the wilderness they decided to murder their youngest brother:
19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.” (Genesis 37:19 NASV)
Though we are not told, we need to understand at some point during this discussion they must have seized Joseph and tied him up. In other words Joseph was present as his brothers discussed their plot to kill him. At this point, they were enraged, probably shouting and even hitting Joseph.
They were dead serious and Joseph knew it. Now Joseph may have had a big mouth, but he didn’t deserve to die for it.
Fortunately, one of the brothers Reuben was able to talk the other brothers out of killing Joseph. Reuben suggested they just throw Joseph into a nearby empty well alive and let him eventually die from a lack of food and water. Though Reuben argued that it would be less bloody and messy, he secretly planned to rescue Joseph later (Joseph 37:21-22).
But before that plan could happen they met a group of slave traders and sold their brother into a life of slavery. They never expected to see Joseph again and told Jacob his favorite son had been killed by a wild animal.
We can only imagine the hatred that the brothers had for him and the genuine terror that Joseph must have felt at that moment.
The slavers sold Joseph in Egypt and through a series of prophetic events that involved interpreting dreams, God raised Joseph up to second in command in Egypt where he eventually ran into his brothers again after a drought forced them to visit Egypt looking for food.
By the time they arrived, God had done a work in Joseph’s life allowing him to forgive his brothers who were planning to murder him.
We see a hint of it when Joseph named his first-born son Manasseh:
51 Joseph named the firstborn [a]Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” (Genesis 41:51 NASV)
The word Manasseh mean literally means “one who forgets.”
In this verse, Joseph said that God made him to forget his brother’s attempt to murder him.
I suspect as he served as a slave in Potiphar’s house and as he lay imprisoned in the Egyptian prison that probably reminded him of that cistern and even as he ruled Egypt, Joseph was having flashbacks of the traumatic day his brothers decided to murder him.
It is a forgetting that can only happen as we forgive.